WHO adopts Church strategy to contain Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic

The Church's message of sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage – as a means to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa – is now beginning to receive support from a number of organizations and governments, including United Nations bodies and U.S. Congress.

The Catholic Church has been highly criticized for promoting chastity education as a means of containing the spread of the disease and not encouraging the use of condoms. But Steven Mosher, in a recent PRI Weekly Briefing, reports that scientific studies, from countries like Uganda, reveal evidence that shows how abstinence and fidelity have dramatically reduced HIV rates.

According to Mosher, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now using terms such as "partner reduction" and "long-term monogamous relationships" to promote concepts similar to those taught by the Catholic Church, namely abstinence and fidelity.

The African Church, no longer led by Western missionaries but by Africans, communicates its message in homilies during mass and through its faith education programs for young people and engaged couples. It also teaches against casual sex, sexual violence and polygamy.

Mosher points out that "countries with the highest condom availability rate also have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate." This evidence has led organizations and governments to note the value of promoting abstinence and fidelity.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation that authorized the "President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief." The plan calls for culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS prevention efforts aimed at "delaying sexual debut, abstinence, fidelity and monogamy, reduction of casual sexual partnering, reducing sexual violence and coercion, including child marriage, widow inheritance, and polygamy, and, where appropriate, use of condoms."

Given this legislation, Mosher supports a "new alliance between the Catholic Church and the Bush Administration" that can "end the scourge of AIDS in Africa."

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